Donald Sterling: No surprise


When it comes to the latest Donald Sterling story, I'm surprised at the surprise.

And if the NBA does anything about it?

That would be a surprise, too.

If you've paid attention to the NBA before TMZ dropped an audio file of tape of what it said was a conversation between Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, then Sterling's disparaging view of African-Americans shouldn't come as a shock.

It fits right in with a man who paid a record $2.75 million to settle a federal housing discrimination lawsuit that included accusations that Sterling and his wife made statements "indicating that African-Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants and that they preferred Korean tenants."

It fits right in with a man who was unsuccessfully sued for wrongful termination by former general manager Elgin Baylor, who claimed, among other things, that Sterling once said, "I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players," and that Sterling would bring women into the locker room to gaze at his players' "beautiful black bodies."

It fits in with a man whose idea of celebrating Black History Month, which is in February, was inviting 1,000 underprivileged children to a Clippers game. In March.

Before a 2010 Lakers vs. Clippers game, then-Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked about the Clippers' long-term bad luck and he ascribed it to Donald Sterling's behavior, and karma. "How many incidents do we have on file?" he mused.

"I had the occasion to spend five different days taking Donald Sterling's deposition," said Carl Douglas, an attorney who represented Baylor in the suit against Sterling. "Over those sessions, you gained insight into one's heart and soul. From that perspective, I cannot say that I am any bit surprised to read about his latest incident. It is consistent with his dark history of racial insensitivity."

The other consistency: the NBA's unwillingness to do anything about any of the previous incidents. No fines, no suspensions. Just as former commissioner David Stern came to lament his failure to punish Phil Jackson and Pat Riley for casually suggesting league motives behind officiating calls, which led to a full-fledged culture of conspiracy among NBA fans, he must regret the lack of sanctions for Sterling over the years that led to this moment. Now Stern's creation becomes new commissioner Adam Silver's problem.

Any action by Silver would also entail his stepping out of the safe cocoon established by his counterparts in the NFL and Major League Baseball. Commissioners have often punished owners -- Mark Cuban fines come to mind. But they aren't quick to impose their will on owners who essentially are their bosses. You'll notice that Roger Goodell hasn't acted on Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, whose Pilot Flying J truck stop company is accused of defrauding customers. Nor has he punished Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who was charged with driving under the influence while possessing a pharmacy's worth of prescription drugs. And no one has forced the Washington Redskins to change their nickname or the Cleveland Indians from using their ridiculous Chief Wahoo logo.

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